|Austin Jackson flying under the radar in Detroit||| Print |||Send|
Written by Jim Mancari (Contact & Archive) on August 17, 2012
When talking about the Detroit Tigers, who immediately comes to mind as impact players? Miguel Cabrera, Prince Fielder and Justin Verlander, right?
It's actually been center fielder Austin Jackson that has been one of the major surprises and impact players on the Tigers. Jackson is quietly batting .314 (fourth in the AL) with career-high 13 home runs and 53 RBIs in the leadoff spot. He's also added eight triples, 10 stolen bases and has a .400 on-base percentage entering Wednesday.
He definitely was not suited for a leadoff role, and Tigers manager Jim Leyland contemplated moving him down in the batting order for this season, especially after he hit just .195 and struck out 19 times in the playoffs. But Leyland decided to stick with his budding superstar in the No. 1 spot.
However, this year, Jackson looks like the player he was hyped to be. According to ESPN, he's striking out five percent less, and his walk rate is up four percent. As a leadoff man, these numbers are crucial to his team's success since it's his responsibility for setting the table in front of Cabrera and Fielder.
Since he's not yet a big money player like Fielder and Cabrera, Jackson hasn't gained the publicity (except in Detroit itself) that he's deserved. But if he keeps up this pace, he might be in the conversation for AL MVP, even despite missing three weeks with an abdominal strain.
In addition to his offense, Jackson provides the Tigers with sparkling defense. He covers so much ground in center field especially at the cavernous Comerica Park, where he turns would-be extra-base hits into outs.
There are very few five-tool players in the game today, but Jackson fits the bill as well as any player, except maybe in the power department. If the Tigers are going to catch the Chicago White Sox atop the AL Central, the team will need Jackson to maintain his stellar level of play.
When it comes to it, the Tigers will lean on Cabrera, Fielder and Verlander to put the team on their shoulders. But having a supporting cast featuring Jackson can only be beneficial. Jackson actually has higher on-base and slugging percentages than Fielder at this point in the season.
The spotlight may not be on him right now, but if the Tigers do make a run and reach the playoffs, that .195 batting average and those 19 strikeouts will be staring him in the face. True superstars rise to the occasion in October, so if the Tigers make the playoffs, we'll see what "A-Jax" is truly made of.